A satisfying secret garden in Spain

Tucked away behind a stone wall in a lush, landscaped garden on the west coast of the Balearic island of Mallorca, lies a discreet holiday home that is a celebration of simplicity.

‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’ is a remark often attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. This very contemporary sentiment does seem as if it could have originated with the legendary Renaissance artist, designer and architect. For those leading successful, hyper-busy, 21st-century lives in a very large city, simplifying one’s existence can seem like a utopian dream rather than a genuine possibility. Which is probably why the current owners of this holiday home in Deià on the west coast of the Spanish island of Mallorca decided to acquire this particular property – and why they asked Deià-based design firm More Design to work on its rejuvenation with them.

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Protected by dry stone walls, the lush tropical garden is able to thrive

The homeowner, who is the creator of more than one cooler-than-cool fashion label, and her partner, a famous musician, were instantly attracted by the extensive spread of land that surrounds the house and its magnificent exposure to the wild coastline, explains Oro del Negro of More Design. ‘The site is well known as the old orchards of Son Bleda farm,’ he says, adding that the property included ‘a typical summer cottage built in the 1970s: open-plan, very basic and rudimentary, but honest’.

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Perfectly situated for maximum enjoyment of the property’s spectacular sea views (‘miramar’ in Spanish), this specially designed area was conceived as a place to gather friends and host special events. The built-in perimeter benches and a vintage drinks table, sourced by the homeowner, provide comfort, simplicity and the intended conviviality of the space

That was the upside. Listed under the ‘Not So Great’ column were that the home’s layout was highly compartmentalised into small areas, and that the building had not been constructed very well. So, says Del Negro, although the project was technically ‘a renovation, it rapidly became a full-blown new build, albeit one that respected the original footprint and volume’ of the pre-existing house.

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With its natural textures and pared-back but comfortable locally sourced wooden furniture, the sheltered veranda offers the perfect place of repose

From the very beginning, More Design felt that the most important aspect of the renovation would be to keep it simple. ‘Discretion and humility are words that come to mind,’ Del Negro explains, as ‘both the client and ourselves believe that bold gestures are often best expressed in an understated nature’. The completed home includes three bedrooms and three bathrooms, as well as open-plan living, dining and kitchen spaces.

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Neither the private nor the public areas are especially large – indeed, the house very definitely has the feel of a country cottage rather than a rambling holiday villa – but the use of multiple built-in furniture pieces and a restrained interior-design scheme that prioritises natural textures and colours combine to make it seem cosy and contained while still being light-filled and laid-back.

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‘Fewer objects mean more time to daydream,’ says Oro del Negro of More Design. The enclosed patio allows just that

Wood, natural stone, wrought iron and glass – complemented by locally sourced textiles and décor items such as vintage glassware and traditional woven-palm accessories – are used throughout the interior spaces. Every element has been carefully and sensitively selected, with the emphasis placed on subtle layering without any sense of clutter or confusion.

A sheltered, comfortably furnished veranda and numerous glass doors lead out onto the remarkably lush garden. The garden brief was to respect the mature trees in the wild forest on the lower part of the property, and to create a traditional Mallorquin patio with plenty of greenery close to the house. The planting was carefully designed by Katerina Christensson of the Garden Company.

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The floors throughout the interior are made from a lime mortar base, and here, in the dining area, chestnut ceiling beams were installed. ‘We love chestnut as it is harder than pine, has a lot of character and can be treated with natural processes to create very interesting effects and patinas,’ says Manuel Villanueva of More Design. The ceramic wall lights are from More Design’s own Drop series, and the hanging lampshade was sourced by the homeowner

As Christensson says, ‘Here, given the perfect situation surrounded by wind-protecting dry stone walls, we could plant a tropical, evergreen courtyard with typically cold-sensitive plants that might ordinarily be difficult to grow in Mallorca.’ These include exotic banana trees (Musa ensete or Ensete ventricosum) and the very fragrant red frangipani (Plumeria rubra) as well as a lime tree and a passion-fruit vine. Rounding off the planting are some gorgeous ferns, with the Philodendron selloum’s poignant foliage combining with sago palms (Cycas revoluta) and slender lady palms (Rhapis humilis) to give the garden close to the house ‘the ultimate tropical look’, says Christensson.

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Built-in elements such as wardrobes and bedside enclaves cleverly perform the task of making small rooms appear more spacious

Both outdoors and inside the house, an utterly tranquil atmosphere has been created. As Del Negro says, the most satisfying effect of how the finished project has turned out is the way it appears rustic and simple, yet preserves all the comforts life has to offer. Whether its occupants are spending a relaxing afternoon reading on the veranda, clustered at the kitchen island preparing a meal together, or gathered around the interior fireplace to chat while enjoying a glass of wine on a cool autumn evening, the house enlarges and enriches these holiday pastimes.

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All the components of the en suite bathroom were custom-made by More Design. The pivoting brass mirror was created by local artisans Toni Calafell and Cristaleria Colomes

Story by Noreen Johnson
Photographs Greg Cox
Styling Sven Alberding (Bureaux)